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Father Frank J. Liistro – loved the Fish Fry

Posted By January 29, 2013 | 11:29 am | Local
Liistro, Frank

By Patricia O’Connell
CFP Correspondent
FITCHBURG – The annual Fish Fry at Madonna of the Holy Rosary was one of Father Frank J. Liistro’s favorite events.
It drew people from all over the North County. Father Liistro would walk from table to table, chatting with old friends and meeting new ones.
“He loved the Fish Fry because everybody got together,” recalled Judy Alario, who worked as his parish secretary.
Father Liistro, 67, passed away Jan. 26 after a long struggle with diabetes. He retired from Madonna in June of 2010, after 16 years as pastor, when his parish was suppressed during a reconfiguration process.
“He loved his priesthood, that was foremost in his life, and receiving the Eucharist,” said Alario. “He loved the people of Madonna. He was one of the best homilists I have every heard.”
“He was very witty,” she added. “He could come back at you with answers you’d never dream of. He was really full of life.”
The Fish Fry was held Friday evenings during Lent. Madonna of the Holy Rosary also held a summer Garlic Festival featuring Italian food. Alario said Father Liistro was also a legendary cook.
“People would stand in line to buy his bisciotti during the Garlic Festival,” she said. “He would make trays upon trays of bisciotti and they were good.”
At this event, also, Father Liistro mingled with the festival goers. “He made the rounds with everybody,” said Alario. “We had thousands of people who came to this.”
Alario said she, as well as other parishioners, are “devastated” at the news of his death. “It’s a really sad time for all of us,” she noted.
Former parishioner Maureen Beauvais said Father Liistro will be greatly missed, although she’s accepted that his health had failed and he wasn’t going to recover.
During his last years as pastor, she explained, he underwent dialysis three mornings a week. Yet he never missed saying Mass, except if he was in the hospital, and he absolutely couldn’t.
“There were times he was so sick and nobody knew it,” she stated. “No matter how crummy he felt he always came through.”
The same held true for the Fish Fry, she noted. He would have his treatment in the morning, and then he’d go directly to the Fish Fry in the church hall.
“We wanted to see his people,” Beauvais said.
She recalled his gregarious nature. “He used to work the room at Fish Fry,” she added. “He’d work the whole room no matter how tired he was.
Beauvais believes Father Liistro also used the Lenten dinners to evangelize. He’d reach out to people who’d been away from church. “People would not come to church, but they would come to the Fish Fry.” Oftentimes, after speaking to Father Liistro, they’d start attending Mass again, according to Beauvais.
“We were friends,” Beauvais said of Father Liistro. “He was my friend. We’d trade recipes. We’d trade jokes.”
Beauvais said Father Liistro’s priestly duties always came first.
Dennis Cucchiara of Fitchburg frequently served on the altar during Father Liistro’s Masses. He also came to know him well.
“I considered him one of my dearest friends,” said Cucchiara.
Although Cucchiara is dealing with the loss of a close friend, at the same time, he said Father Liistro is now with God.
“He’s in a better place,” Cucchiara stated. “He’s home.”
“You feel bad for us,” he added. “We’re left here. He’s in a better place.”
Getting to Heaven was something Father Liistro often spoke about from the pulpit. “Almost every sermon he ever delivered” had the message that “our goal was to obtain Heaven,” noted Cucchiara.
Cucchiara also recalled Father Liistro’s homilies.
“When he preached a homily it was not from a piece of paper,” he added. “It was from his heart.
Cucchiara also remembers Father Liistro welling up with tears, at times, when speaking of God.
“He was a very devoted man,” said Cucchiara.
Father Frank J. Liistro was born in New Britain, Connecticut to Frank J. and Stella (Lempek) Liistro. He was ordained to the priesthood in 1974.


LEOMINSTER – Father Frank J. Liistro, Jr., 67, died January 26, after a long struggle with pulmonary difficulties and diabetes. He was the son of the late Frank and Stella (Lempek) Liistro, Sr. He was also predeceased by his sister, Pauline Liistro. Father Frank leaves his uncles John and Sebastian Liistro his aunt Mary (Liistro) Pepi, and his aunt Rita (Mirmina) Liistro, along with numerous cousins, friends, brothers in the clergy, and his consecrated and lay brothers and sisters in ministry.
Father Frank was ordained to the priesthood of Jesus Christ on June 1, 1974. He graduated from New Britain High School in 1964 and entered Holy Apostles Seminary in Cromwell, CT, completing his priestly studies at Christ the King Seminary in Olean, NY.
Father Frank served the People of God in the parishes of St. Bernard, Worcester (1974-76); St. Anthony de Padua, Fitchburg (1976-80); Sacred Heart, Webster (1980-81); St. Anna, Leominster (1981-85); Sacred Heart, Gardner (1987-90); St. Anne, Manchaug, as pastor (1990-94); Madonna of the Holy Rosary, Fitchburg, as pastor (1994-2010). In 2005, he was also appointed pastor of Sacred Heart, Fitchburg, while remaining as pastor of Madonna. He retired in 2010 due to health concerns.
Father Frank had a great devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary and to St. Francis of Assisi, serving as Chaplain to the Secular Franciscans who meet at Madonna of the Holy Rosary Hall. Two of his greatest moments in priesthood were the first of many times he celebrated Mass at the tomb of St. Francis in Assisi and in the Basilica (Santuario) of Our Lady of the Rosary in Pompei, Italy. Father Frank was very proud of his Italian-Polish heritage which he celebrated with many trips to Italy and Poland. He was especially endeared to Our Lady of Czestochowa and to La Madonna del Santo Rosario. Father Frank was also an expert in the spirituality and history of Russian icons, a subject upon which he gave several lectures in the area.
The Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated  January 31, in St. Ann’s Church, 47 Clark Street, New Britain, CT., Father Frank’s home parish.

Memorial donations may be made to the Priests’ Retirement Fund or to Partners in Charity (formerly “The Bishop’s Fund”) of the Diocese of Worcester, 49 Elm Street, Worcester, MA 01609.